Women’s access to justice: A comparative study in Australia, Colombia Belgium and Senegal
Today, the rule of law often rules women out. According to UN women more than half of working women in the world, 600 million, are trapped in insecure jobs without legal protection. A similar number do not have access to even basic protection against domestic violence and sexual violence, particularly in conflict. For millions of women in both rich and poor countries, the search for justice is fraught with difficulty and is often expensive with laws and legal systems frequently discriminating against them. There are 127 countries who do not have effective laws on marital rape and only a small amount of rapes result in conviction. Access to justice underlies every aspect of women’s lives, particularly in regards to their access to land, education and protection.
The international community needs to show a stronger commitment to accelerating actions and policies to increase women’s access to justice and create a responsive justice system that advances women’s equal rights, opportunity and participation. Globally, there is a need to increase women’s access to justice from the local to the national levels. Women’s participation in the justice sector needs to be increased and better training for judges is needed to challenge the notion that women’s behavior may contribute to the violence perpetrated against them. Women need better access to all forms of justice particularly in cases of sexual violence, physical violence and harassment. Of the 28 countries that have more than 30% female representation in parliament, 23 have used quotas There is a clear link between increased female representation and the implementation of laws to strengthen women’s rights. Reforms are need to ensure equal pay for women, equal property rights, equal access to education and rights to protection from sexual, physical and verbal violence. Special attention needs to be paid for women’s access to justice in conflict situations. In much of the world there are still too many gaps in the law which leave women without adequate protection. In many countries, the laws are too weak for women to feel confident in using them.
This questionnaire is intended to explore what forms of violence exist within women’s environments in Colombia, Belgium, Senegal and Australia and whether the participants feel that they would be able to receive access to justice should they become a victim of violence. Receiving justice would include feeling comfortable going to the police, believing the police would take action and believing that the would be able to seek justice in a court of law. This study aims to explore the diverse ranges of violence that women experience within different contexts and to what extent women are able to receive access to justice within these environments. We aim to use the knowledge generated from this study to draw attention to gaps in the legal systems and to understand better what can be done to improve women’s access to justice.